Cayman Airways has purchased six new boarding ramps for its planes.
Four of the boarding ramps are at Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman. Three are for the jets and one for the Saab or Embraer aircraft that service the Sister Islands. The other two ramps, one for jets and one for the smaller planes, are at Charles Kirkconnell International Airport on Cayman Brac.
The national airline’s president and CEO Fabian Whorms said the ramps, which provide an inclined walkway to board or deplane, will increase safety and comfort for passengers, especially those with limited mobility or who need wheelchair assistance.
“We know how much it means for individuals to be able to walk on and off a plane on their own and for families to easily board together,” he said. “Previously, wheelchair passengers had to be physically carried up or down the stairs by several support staff, but now they can board in a much more efficient, safe and dignified manner with their wheelchairs being wheeled right onto the plane.”
Although the ramps are not covered, they have anti-skid surfaces so they can be used in the rain.
Cayman Airways Marketing and Public Relations Manager Olivia Scott Ramirez said each of the jet ramps cost approximately US$50,000 and each of the Saab/Embraer ramps cost US$30,000, bringing the total investment to about US$260,000. “With the savings obtained by eliminating wheelchair carry-ons and improved efficiencies, CAL anticipates an 18-month repayment period for the entire ramp package,” Ms. Scott Ramirez said.
Since the purchase of the ramps was a Cayman Airways investment, she said, the ramps will primarily be for use by Cayman Airways.
“CAL would look to provide ramps to the [other] carriers that we handle as our own operational needs allow,” she said. Deputy Premier and Minister for Tourism Moses Kirkconnell welcomed the additional equipment.
“The ramps offers a safer, more convenient boarding alternative for seniors and young children and eliminates the need on arrival for passengers to lift their carry-on bags down a flight of stairs,” he said.
He also noted that the islands’ dive operators “have long been praised for their professionalism and experience in providing dive activities for disabled divers,” and the addition of the new boarding ramps “will make it easier for these individuals to enjoy a more comfortable disembarkation experience when visiting to take advantage of the many benefits that diving provides.” Longtime Caymanian businessman Parker Tibbetts, who now uses a wheelchair, said he was delighted to see the new boarding ramps.
“The boarding or deplaning process using traditional stairs can be a very distressing time for those who have historically had to be carried on or off an aircraft,” said Mr. Tibbetts, who is the patron of the new draft Cayman Islands Disability Policy.
“After my own inspection and use of the ramps, I am pleased that they will be a great improvement to the existing experience and believe that their use will provide much faster and safer boarding and deplaning for everyone,” he added.